Strolling through Skid Row seeking a Greyhound Bus

Posted: May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized
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45554_aafd8ed98befa3d1ec68fc8a4ba7efa6_0504103a098d70298fa7446ce398b2a0Armenian Hostage Crisis (Part 4)

My money-sucking car issues have landed me, in a circuitous sort of way, on Skid Row.

Literally “on” Skid Row.

Turns out Skid Row and the Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Station share the same zip code and, unfortunately, I’m becoming all too familiar with the Greyhound bus station these days.

This time, my second sortie there in six weeks involved an unplanned stroll through the aforementioned world-renowned homeless enclave.

To back up a moment: after 81 days at my mechanic’s auto shop waiting for a new engine, my Volvo was up and running again, bestowed a second lease on life.

Or so it seemed. That lease turned out to be short term–a total of four days to be exact.

Shortly after retrieving my car, I took it on a two-city, four-day road trip. The first half of the trip went flawlessly. Then, trouble, compounded by being 100 miles away from home with a car that wouldn’t budge. It would start but then suddenly stall out the minute I put it into drive.

Not able to stay the two days it was going to take to fix, I hitched a ride home with friends. Two days later when the car was ready, I had to travel over 100 miles to fetch it.

Thus, Greyhound.

To get from my house in LA to the Greyhound train station I decided to take a city bus. (Yes, I took a bus to catch a bus.)

The city bus website gave me no direct route but suggested changing buses for the second leg. It appeared to be a short distance, so instead of waiting for the connecting bus, I chose to walk.

Unbeknown to me at the time, that decision meant walking right through the heart of Skid Row.

I am a middle-aged, trim guy who dresses in clothing that fits like it’s  supposed to. I sport a clean haircut, black-rimmed Tom Ford glasses and, for my stroll trough Skid Row, a computer bag slung over my shoulder. In this neighborhood I must’ve look like a walking billboard for the privileged class.

The sidewalk is parceled off almost like plots of land, like neighborhoods, with shopping carts and makeshift tents, so it seemed more appropriate to walk down the street. Walking on the sidewalk would have felt like trespassing.

If you live in a decent sized city, you see homeless people all the time–the filthy old guy pushing a shopping cart down an alley or the schizophrenic lady digging through a trash can.

But I’ve never witnessed a herd of homeless people like this, hundreds and hundreds of them. It was like a natural disaster, or in this case, a humanitarian catastrophe.

The 2000 Census put the population of L.A.’s Skid Row at over 17,000. That includes the homeless and those living in flop houses and halfway houses that line the streets. Close to 6,000 people are thought to live just on the streets in the area.

It was a heartbreaking sea of broken people. One block after the next. Every direction I looked.

I realize some of them choose to live on the streets rather than seeking out shelters. Some feel it’s safer than shelters, for a myriad of reasons. The streets are easier for drug addicts, for sure. Shelters have rules, the streets only have laws that may or may not be enforced.

Plus, shelters are often at capacity.

I felt like I needed to apologize to these folk, to tell them I was sorry that anyone had to live that way. And sorry that I’ve never done anything, in 51 years, to help make things any better.

More than anything I wanted to walk as fast as possible, to get away from it and just burry my head in the sand. Seems most Americas have chosen the ostrich approach to homelessness. Politicians occasionally mention the subject, but there are never any solutions proposed. You get a lot more traction talking about gay marriage or guns. Homelessness isn’t contentious enough, I guess.

I wanted to walk a little faster than normal, not because I was scared, but because I was sad and frustrated. I wonder if any of these folks have hope? For their sake, I hope so. Because at least hope is something, no matter how unrealistic it might be. I would love to think that a dignified life is still in the cards for them, in this country. But I really don’t see how.

So yeah, I never thought I’d say it but I was pretty happy when I got to the Greyhound bus station. As bereft and penniless as some folks might seem in a bus terminal, they’re living the American Dream compared to the folks on Skid Row.

And, I guess that means, so am I.

(To be continued …)




  1. Oh darling, you have always looked that way! Lol (half-heartedly joking). It’s okay I still like you. Even if you dressed in “unfited”? Clothes!

  2. stvrsnbrgr says:

    Maybe we should give the homeless guns. That would at least get them on the radar in our current version of civilization.

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